Jimmy Hopper Brings Italian Opera & Bon Jovi to the Palms
You never know what you're going to get with this Vegas crooner

When on the website for singer Jimmy Hopper you see that his most recent escapade is entitled Journey of the Heart, "a journey through powerful and enduring music...where song and emotion take flight. Where your body will move. Your inhibitions will forget. And your heart will find its voice." You read all this while listening to a recording of Jimmy performing a song entitled "Nasty Girl."

That, my friends, is Jimmy Hopper.

Veteran Vegas lounge performer Hopper is famous for his range, referring both to his vocals as well as his song choices. Last Sunday, Hopper debuted his weekly residency at the Palms with a song selection from Andrea Bocelli, Muse, Bon Jovi, Black Eyed Peas and Green Day. Or at least, that's the idea.

With Hopper, you never really know what you're going to get. He thrives off of improve and reacting to the audience.

"Opening night at the Palms, I will not even know what I'm doing. I'll have the first three of four songs that we're going to do, and that will be it. From there on I'll just start winging it, cause that's what we do best-reading the crowd and just winging it."

That sense of confidence and fun is one thing which sets Hopper apart from the other hordes of Vegas lounge singers and has brought him back to the Strip time and time again since 1999 when then-Rio owner Tony Marnell II originally invited him.

"He called me and said ‘I have built you a room. It's called the VooDoo Lounge and I want you to open it," Hopper reflects.

Then, around six months into his residency, Hopper decided to shake things up a bit and sing Italian opera. Yes, that's right, opera at the VooDoo Lounge. A place described as one of "the wildest nightspots in Las Vegas," with a side of old school Italian opera. People thought it would never work.

"It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did," Hopper exclaims. "My fans in the audience just loved it. They looked at me and they just went, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy's a freak. He's got spiked hair and he wears makeup and he's singing songs by Freddy Mercury or whatever and he just sang an Italian opera piece.' Believe me; people were waiting in line just to hear me do that."

One has to wonder if Hopper's flamboyant antics will still work now that a decade has passed and the Strip has gone through some tremendous transformations, especially when it comes to entertainment (can you turn a corner without running into yet another Cirque du Soleil show?).

"I think most of Vegas entertainers are walking on pins and needles right now," Hopper says. "In the early days-of course, way before me, but even back in '99, 2000 when we were just booming through that time-it was kind of like entertainment, this is our gift to you. This is our treat to you...Now, I think a lot of entertainers, it's being put upon them. You better put up, draw people. If you don't..." Hopper ominously trails off, mid-threat.

After the Rio, Hopper did a five-year stint at the Bellagio before moving to California where George Maloof and his family caught a performance of his over the summer. Maloof's mother fell in love with Hopper's striking falsetto cover of "Without You" by Badfinger.

"Well, she just loved that," Hopper muses. "I'm thinking to myself, ‘Hmm, the key to any man's heart is his mommy."

That seems to be true, since six months later Hopper has added Sunday nights at the Palms to his weekly performance schedule.

Hopper brings with him only a violinist, a guitarist, and himself on vocals and keys. A stark contrast to the Lounge's last tenant Matt Goss, with his full band and sexy dancers, the Dirty Virgins.

But who needs a scantily clad dance troupe when you've been named "Performer of the Year" by the Las Vegas Review-Journal or "Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year" by Gaming Today?